Essay on Consumption in American Culture at the End of History

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Consumption in American Culture at the End of History In the novel Brave New World , the denizens of Aldous Huxley’s dystopia live in a rigidly structured consumer culture. From young ages, they are conditioned to hate the outdoors so that as adults they will prefer activities that require large amounts of manufactured products and long trips that utilize the maximum amount of infrastructure. That is what keeps the world humming, and there are important similarities between Huxley’s vision of social control through pleasure and the rigid policing of tastes, activities, and consumption in our own 21st century culture. The new trend and buzzword now is globalization, and the contemporary reaction to the expansion of global…show more content…
Before looking at the similarities between the two, it is important to understand the basis of political and economic liberalism. The Western concept of individual autonomy stresses the collective sum of choices as the good of the community. Following the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau, individual autonomy became enshrined in political and economic liberalism. Civil rights and liberties had been the environment wherein concepts like private property and democracy find their purchase in the west. Liberal economists like Adam Smith stressed the of importance of keeping private enterprise free of the encumbrance of government intrusion which, it is argued, allows for the best outcome for society even though no one actually planned it. The hidden hand of Laissez-Faire capitalism would ostensibly result in the best outcome. The struggle is interminable, but society continually evolves according to the free play of individual choices. Immanuel Kant, who took Rousseau’s autonomous individual and built an ethical theory, posited history itself as the process of development resulting from these choices. Kant argued that the great engine of history (and one could add the hidden hand as well) was the “unsocial sociability” of the people competing

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